Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Apparently, Fear is Excitement Deprived of Oxygen

Hello Friends:

I'll explain the title of this post in a minute, but I need to wander off (potentially way off) topic and then back again. The subject of this post actually starts much earlier in the month.

I've been feeling better. I've noticed it mostly in my social anxiety. I've been able to go to group functions with less trepidation, have more fun at them, feel less mortified, and ruminate about them much less afterward. Sometime in the first week of October, I seem to have turned a small corner, and this ability to deal with social situations much more easily is the result. And of course, since it is now easier to talk to people, life has improved all around. Stores are not as intimidating. Going places by myself is an actual possibility. My email is getting read and answered in the same week for a change.

The ultimate marker? I joined Facebook. Still not sure that I'll stick with it, but if I don't, it probably won't be out of fear or anxiety. It will be because my excuse was right all along and Facebook is actually kind of useless. And I'll be able to say that from an informed position, rather than irresponsibly making it up because I am too scared to try it out. But I don't actually know yet since it has only been a few days, and I'm still figuring out this 'wall' thingy.

So of course the question buzzing in my head is "Why do I feel better?" And I answered myself pretty fast on that one. I think all the work is paying off a little. A small gain in one area is leveraged, and makes it easier for a small gain in another area, and on and on. It starts so slow you don't see it - gains take a long time in the beginning. Each is painful and hard won, and it takes time to adjust to the change and be ready for the next. But then there are more and more gains, and they start feeding off of each other. Here are a few of these 'gains' in more concrete terms.

I am more med compliant.  I have always known staying on the meds is important for me, but I allowed myself to forget them here and there. My OCDs make it so hard to take any kind of pills, that I cut myself some slack on difficult days. Then for some reason I started to pay attention to 'here and there' and realized I was "forgetting" two or three times a week. So my pdoc thought I was on 40 mg per day, but in essence I was really on about 28 to 30 mg per day, averaged over a week. I cracked down on myself, and am now missing one a week, max.

Messages from my body make more sense. The physical-mental-integrated therapies I've been doing have slowly made it easier to understand what my body is saying. For example, it wasn't that long ago that I first really learned what hunger pains felt like, and what their purpose was. I mean it, I didn't understand hunger pains, and did not perceive them as anything other than generalized discomfort that had no purpose and no solution. Why listen to your body when you were told "You are not in pain, you are just uncomfortable" or "You don't know what it really means to hurt" or "You are just making that up" all the time? Reconnecting with my body has been a painful but interesting and empowering experience. It is easier to be mindful about my eating, and not just eat because I'm having a sugar crash or because I'm feeling down. It is more obvious when I actually need to use my inhaler, instead of just ignoring that "not enough air" sensation that never made any sense. Etc.

More reactions have become choices. My first reaction to anything negative is an over-reaction of some kind. Then it usually becomes something dark and prickly living under my skin, like a thorn, that stabs you anew any time you give it the slightest brush. Yet recently things have felt a little different. After my first day of over-reaction, I can take one more step back than I used to. For some things, it is enough to say, "I don't want to care about this anymore. It is over. It is not important. I'm not going to keep thinking about this all the time. I'm not going to stay bent out of shape."And then, amazingly, I am not bent anymore. Never has it seemed like I could choose not to feel that way. Ironically, I think this came from giving myself permission to feel any way at all, to just say "My feelings are my feelings" and let them be. I still have my normal reaction/over-reaction, of course. It is simply that sometimes I can then say, "Enough of that," stop ruminating, and move on. Wow.

All this even lead me to try a combination physical therapy/acupuncture treatment today. Being OCD scared of contamination means needles are really nasty beasties. But I was feeling tough, and I knew it my gut it would help. I'd had a few, very controlled, exposures to acupuncture before, but never like this, with needles sticking out of me and someone bending my limbs and rotating my joints at the same time. It was weird. Scary. The needle-lady said something like, "Naturally with your background you'd find this scary. But remember that fear can be converted to excitement with proper oxygen. So when you feel fear, breathe, and let it become the fuel to do important things."

I laughed out loud. If if were that easy to convert fear, say by hyperventilating, I'd have figured that out a long, long time ago. But my new mindset means that I don't dismiss anything out of hand. I let it percolate a little, then take what seems useful and dump the rest. Scientifically and blood-chemistry wise, I do not thing fear is excitement deprived of oxygen.

But, the line stuck with me. I thought about how I've been breathing a little new air into my life. How there is less fear, and more excitement for the future. Even hope. So there you have it. I'd be interested to hear what it is that you think are your recent gains, and if they seem to help you make more ground in other areas that seemed, at first, unrelated.

Your Hostess With Neuroses

Image credit/info: Hot air balloon by ronnie44052 on flickr, via Creative Commons, CC2.0


Andy said...

That's a great line.

Are all of the factors you discuss unprecedented for you? Coming out of previous depressions, did you ever feel like you were listening to your body more, for instance?

The Blue Morpho said...

No, I think these factors are generally new, except perhaps for med compliance. I think when I am serious about my meds, I do generally feel better. But this is the first time I was cognizant of my denial, my 'forgetting' to take them was really not wanting to.

Just Be Real said...

Thank you for a thought provoking and informative post. I appreciate your transparency. Blessings as you continue your healing.

Nicole said...

Great post :)

I definitely identify with your "reactions" section. I love when you say "it usually becomes something dark and prickly living under my skin, like a thorn, that stabs you anew any time you give it the slightest brush." That is such a perfect description! Very well written. I completely understand this and I feel the same way. My recent gains have been in this area as well and I'm finding it a bit easier these days to just let some things go, rather than spending my time dwelling on them.

I'm glad that you are taking steps and making progress! Good for you :)


The Blue Morpho said...

Just Be Real and Nicole: Thanks for reading and commenting! It is great to see others making gains, too, even as we struggle with other areas. Letting go must be the hardest thing I've ever tried, each time, it seems like you have to learn it all over again. I appreciate all the blessings and good wishes!

Toyin O. said...

Praying for you about all your issues.

drugsaregood said...

Yep, I do that too- "forgetting" meds is sometimes intentional, if not fully consciously.

Amy said...

Wow, these sounds like big gains to me! I'm so glad you're feeling better. Being able to connect to and listen to your body is major. Do you think that ability might be connected to the physical therapy you do, e.g., that allowing someone you trust to "handle" you makes you feel a little more comfortable with yourself?

The Blue Morpho said...

Amy - there is certainly a connection between the physical integrated therapy and my understanding of my body's messages. I can't say I get it completely, what aspect of that therapy is the most related to my response to internal cues. But a big part of the therapy is sort of 'listening' and speaking for your body. Like 'what would your arm say right now if it could talk?' That kind of stuff.

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